The bob’s your uncle
WATCHING THIS gushing hagiography, it is impossible not to feel a little bemused when various wags and pundits describe superstar hairdresser Vidal Sassoon as the “messiah” or “Albert Einstein”. Where’s Monty Python in drag when you need them? But the rags-toriches trajectory of Sassoon’s life and glittering career cries out for romantic treatment and fabulous hyperbole. He is a hairdresser, you know. And besides, his upbring was far from fabulous hyperbole.
Born to Jewish immigrants in Hammersmith, London, the Sassoon kids were so impoverished that their mother was forced to leave them in an orphanage for seven years. Young Vidal
soon showed promise as a political activist; at 17 he was too young to sign up for the second World War, so he busied himself by breaking up fascist meetings in east London. In 1948 he enlisted with the Israeli Defence Forces and fought in the Arab-Israeli War.
Perhaps something of the military man lingered on through Sassoon’s Carnaby Street glamour years. His iconic geometric bobs and adherence to salon-free styling and cuts are rooted in practical and precise thinking. His brand and empire, similarly, market the notion of a look that’s ready for anything; it’s semper fi in keratin.
We suspect there’s a weightier film to be made of all this than the frothy one delivered here. Too often we’re left alone with the same ghastly fashionistas who made The September Issue such distasteful viewing. Still, unlike that picture and other recent fashion documentaries (notably Valentino), Craig Teper’s film has the advantage of having a genuinely affable, charismatic hero.
It helps, too, that Sassoon’s iconic dos are every bit as cinematic as a girl and a gun. A world without the mathematical bob, remember, is a world without Uma Thurman’s wig in Pulp Fiction.
For all the show business of the presentation and all the gasps over Sassoon’s “achievements” and “place in history”, by the end we’re inclined to believe the style grotesques and lines like “it’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of Vidal Sassoon”. At any rate, the film wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without them.